BRENT LATHAM - Thursday, October 22, 2009
With just days to American kickoff in Kano, YA has arrived in Nigeria, and as usual, we'll be bringing you the best coverage available of the U-17 run here in Sub-Saharan Africa. Let's hope it lasts longer than the U-20's turn at the World Cup did.
Of course, the chances of that are excellent based just on the group the Americans find themselves in. With Malawi and the UAE (though they could surprise) in the foursome, the US should be able to manage the four points they need for a round of 16 berth.
In fact this team is tipped to do even better, and Monday's match-up with Spain will go a long way to showing just how far. The US played Spain earlier this year to a 2-1 loss in which the Spaniards took all the points on a last gasp goal. But those were two different teams, the Americans lining up with their triumvirate of missing skill players- Renken, Lletget and Gyau - and the Spaniards with an almost entirely different roster.
This time around Spain looks to be a load to handle, with midfielder Pablo Sarabia of Real Madrid's youth team pulling the strings, and no fewer than six Barcelona youngsters on their roster.
That's why I'm anxious to see this group of Americans face up with them right off the bat. This is tipped to be a great generation of US players, one that backs down for no one, and they have a chance to prove it in Nigeria. Anything less than a semi-final appearance, in my opinion, will be another disappointment for the Bradenton team factory.
As for Nigeria itself, I haven't been here long enough to report on the allegedly insufficient infrastructure for the tournament. I'm headed out to Abuja Stadium Saturday for the openers (poor Honduras plays Argentina, then Nigeria and then Germany). And I'll get much more idea of the surroundings when I attempt to travel north to Kano on Sunday for the American group games.
There's much more to come from Nigeria, so stay tuned, and check in on twitter @yanksabroad and @brentjavan as I'll be updating as frequently as the internet, and power, allows.